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Back of the Mike

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Back of the Mike

Published 1938

Insider's view of the 1930s radio studio showing the production of dramatic sound effects.

Run time 9:15
Producer Handy (Jam) Organization
Sponsor Chevrolet Division, General Motors Corporation
Audio/Visual Sd, B&W



Ken Smith sez: A boy lies on his bed (wearing a white shirt and a necktie), listening to a radio western. We see the images the radio creates in his mind, then we cut to the studio, where we see that this whole fantasy world is created at a frantic pace by announcers in three-piece suits and sound-effects technicians operating incredibly complicated jury-rigged devices. Since this is a Jam Handy picture, the good guys catch the bad guys in the end because the good guys are in a Chevrolet and the bad guys are only on horses.

COMMUNICATIONS PERCEPTION ACTORS RADIOS BOYS HOMES HOUSES CHILDREN CHEVROLET ADVERTISING SHERIFFS NARRATIVES COWBOYS CRIMINALS FATHERS DAUGHTERS WOMEN MEN APPARATUS HUMOR WIPES Radio broadcasting Radio studios Microphones Sound effects Surrealism Actors Entertainment Westerns (genres) Automobiles (Chevrolet) Fires Chases Horses Language Accents (regional) Sounds Mountains Stunts Robberies Crime Bandits Desperadoes Radio drama Drama (radio) Plays (radio) Safety


Reviewer: Moose Malloy - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - June 13, 2012
Subject: An Early Look at a Hollywood Star
I believe MGM star John Hodiak is present in this interesting short film.

You can see the young actor first at c.5:54 into the film, looking tall and slim.

He appears to have one real line, when the camera is showing us a piece of wood being cut into:
"These are pretty green for burning, Sam."

Wikipedia states that Mr. Hodiak once worked for the Chevrolet company; it also reports that he had his acting beginnings in radio. Here in this short subject we have a meeting of these two roles, with perhaps his first appearance on film.
Reviewer: whiskey951 - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - September 21, 2011
Subject: Back of the Mike
Realy enjoyed the shot film. reminds me when I use to "WATCH" the radio when I was a kid. I have watched this several times and just discovered the car is english made. Steering wheel is on the right hand side. Wonder why they didn't use a american made car or is this a clip from a old movie. I gave this 5 stars for the fun of watching and the memories it brought back.
Reviewer: radioman714 - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - June 2, 2009
Subject: Blast from the Past
A truly great example of ol time radio. A must watch...and listen with your eyes closed the second time.
Reviewer: Doc Long - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - April 15, 2009
Subject: Back of the Mike
Great. This film shows how Old Time Radio produced sound effects for the "Theater of the Mind."
Reviewer: bread - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - October 7, 2006
Subject: Brilliant!
I found this film to be Brilliant! I loved seeing how a radio show is made (I'm only 15, so they are before my time), And i loved the clever way they show how radio uses the imagination. It's a very entertaining film, one of the best in the archive.
Reviewer: Trio33 - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - March 22, 2006
Subject: Crackin' Good
Starts off slow with the vvisualization of what the boy is thinking, but when it gets into the radio studio it is very entertaining watching how many people jumped around to make the sounds!
Reviewer: RichRar - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - November 23, 2005
Subject: Next`best thing Chevrolet ever sponsored
Outstanding narrative that pleased our radio crowd. The radio lead actor is a ringer for "Prairie Home Companion" host Garrison Keillor. The sound effects are fascinating and amusing to watch in action.
Reviewer: ERD - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - September 6, 2005
Subject: "Back of the Mike" is nicely done
"Back Of The Mike" is well done. It shows the viewer how a 1930's radio play was done in the studio. Unlike television, the radio listeners had to participate by using their imagination.
Reviewer: - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - December 26, 2004
Subject: Great
This Clip Show's the making of an Old Time Radio show From All Points of View.
Would Like To know who Submitted it?
Reviewer: mervyn leroy - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - July 24, 2003
Subject: Who needs TV?
Highly entertaining, if hellishly misleading, look at the "man behind the curtain" of network radio. Aficionados will stand up on their hind legs and bark for the images of a vintage '38 broadcast in progress, but the film purveys some dark and dubious lessons:

Never leave witnesses to a crime.

Only children are gullible enough to enjoy radio dramas.

Children wear neckties in their bedrooms.

The cheapest of afternoon serials could afford a team of 7 professional sound men.

Blondes are an illusion.

The great thing about the film is that it shows radio as a visual medium, sort of a personal TV before the dull literalness of actual TV. Inescapably, though, it succumbs to that literalness; after all, no image on film of "Uncle Joe and his niece Betty driving in his old jalopy through the barren New Mexico desert" could be as pristine as the image called up by radio. (FOOTSTEPS OFF) (DISTANT:) G'night, folks!
Reviewer: Spuzz - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - January 9, 2003
Subject: Classic Radio Sound Effects demo!
This is another one of those shorts where I've just seen bits and pieces of, but never saw the whole thing, and it's a pleasure to finally see the whole thing. A radio drama is played out, first we hear the radio show, with a little boy in progress, then we see what the boy is imagining what visuals are taking place as the boy is listening. We're watching what he's imagining, then it gets really interesting as we see the radio show in progress, where the main focus is how they make radio sound effects. One thing is for certain, the radio people sure need some charisma pills, they look bored throughout. Still this is a real gem of a short, and is reccomended.
Reviewer: Christine Hennig - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - October 4, 2002
Subject: Back of the Mike
The production of a live radio western is shown here, and we get to see how they do all the sound effects and stuff. We get to see such things as one guy doing both voices in a conversation, an adult do a very convincing impersonation of a child's voice, guys playing cowboys impersonating the sound of conversing while riding by playing "horsie" while reading their lines, and all the weird stuff used to make sound effects. It's all quite interesting, especially from a historical perspective.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
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